The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend – Katarina Bivald (T: Swedish-English by Alice Menzies)


Source: Goodreads

Sara Lindqvist, a bookstore clerk from Sweden, travels to rural Iowa to visit her pen pal, Amy Harris. Unfortunately for Sara, she arrives just as Amy’s funeral is ending. Unsure what to do with her two-month-long visa, Sara is collectively taken in by the town of Broken Wheel, where she slowly comes to know everyone she has only heard about through Amy’s letters.


This book has many high ratings, and I have heard many people discuss it and how much they loved it. I don’t think it lived up to the hype, but I did enjoy it.

The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend should have some kind of warning label attached, however, due to the spoilers for other books that are contained in its pages. Yes, Sara and Amy are huge book lovers and so book talk is to be expected, but Bivald’s book contains huge spoilers for works such as Pride and PrejudiceFried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop CaféLittle WomenTo Kill A MockingbirdGone with the WindJane Eyre, and The Horse Whisperer (book and film) to name a few. Having read most of these, the spoilers didn’t phase me so much, but I feel truly terrible for those readers who have had all of these wonderful stories ruined for them without warning. I would also like to note the author’s fictional adherence to some laws, yet complete ignoring of others. A town cannot just open a bookstore without doing any paperwork. They just can’t. Sara even says she wouldn’t be able to open one in Sweden for a host of reasons, but these reasons apparently cease to apply at the town line of Broken Wheel.

That being said, the translation is impeccable. The story itself takes around fifty pages before it actually gets interesting at all, but once things start rolling it’s quite a fun ride. Going into the book I didn’t have any background beyond Amy’s death, Sara’s arrival, and that a bookstore was somehow involved. Let me tell you, those the bare essentials. So bare, in fact, that they may be almost meaningless. This book is not really about a bookstore. Sure, everything revolves around said establishment, but only because Sara happens to be there. No, the real story is the town, the people’s who’s lives have almost lost meaning rising up like flowers in the spring, and how every single tiny thing we do can change the world around us. Oh, and of course there’s unrequited love and complicated romances and diversity galore.

Overall I’m not sure what I expected from this book, but I certainly didn’t expect a fluffy romance crossed with a comeback story, and I’m still not sure how I feel about it. The beginning was boring, but the ending had me in tears. At the time of writing, I’ve only been done with the book for about 10 hours, so things are a little jumbled. Ah, well, maybe it’s just one of those things you’ll have to read for yourself.


HHC Rating: 3.75 stars

A Novel Bookstore – Laurence Cossé (T: French-English by Alison Anderson)


Source: Goodreads

The Good Novel has been open just over a year in Paris when three of its secret selection committee members are attacked. Now it is up to Ivan, Franchesca, and officer Heffner to unravel the mystery of who is behind the obvious sabotage attempts before someone ends up dead or the store is forced to close. Told from the view of a mysterious narrator who is determined to write the history of the shop and its founders, A Novel Bookstore will carry its readers away just as the stories available at The Good Novel do its customers.

Part mystery, part romance, all literary, A Novel Bookstore astounded me at every turn. Much of the mystery is left in the dark as the narrator can only share what he/she knows, but with each character introduced the intrigue grows and the reader becomes more involved in the story. At 416 pages, this novel is fairly hefty but definitely worth the read. The translation is impeccable. Only one word was mistranslated, and I think it more likely that it was translated correctly and misspelled/autocorrected to the wrong word. While it is, on occasion, hard to understand whether Ivan or Francesa is speaking during their tête-à-têtes due to quotation mark use, the difficulty is only mildly annoying as it typically doesn’t matter for you to know exactly which of them is speaking.

I enjoyed every page immensely, from the bits about book selling to the selection committee, to the backgrounds of the committee people and Ivan and Francesca’s lives. Whether everything was interesting to me because of my love for all things literary as well as historical, or the way the narrator weaves the history of the store, I was mesmerized by every detail. Most of all, from about a third or halfway through the story, I became obsessed with the idea of the narrator. To write, as an author, from a character’s point of view as if they are the author, fascinated me, and then the fact that we do not find out until the final pages who this mysterious narrator is was just too much. I couldn’t put the book down all week, reading a paragraph here and there anytime I had a moment to myself. It is easy to digest, while at the same time it leaves you wanting so much more. The Jane Austen quote, “If a book is well written I always find it too short.” definitely applies in this case.

I do not know if there will be a sequel to Cossé’s work, especially given the way things ended, but if there ever is another work like it or involving The Good Novel and its colorful cast of characters, I will be there on release day to buy it.

HHC Rating: 5 Stars

The Little Paris Bookshop – Nina George (T: German-English by Simon Pare)


via Goodreads

Jean Perdu lives alone and prefers his own company. Yet he still knows everyone’s business in his apartment building, and he owns a bookshop, at which he prescribes books to cure ailments many people are not even aware of. Yes, Monsieur Perdu is a Literary Apothecary. And his shop is no normal bookstore, but a floating book barge on the Seine, moored in the middle of Paris. Convinced after many years to read a letter left him by the one that got away, Perdu embarks on a journey to find closure, and along the way finds himself.

I picked George’s up because it had ‘bookshop’ in the title. Sorry, not sorry. This book is like what happens when your friend who gives great dating advice but never dates finally hits the dating scene. You know they are going to have to learn to swim in the murky waters of the dating pool, but you still just want to do a happy dance. Monsieur Perdu is like this. Throughout the novel he’s always giving people advice and fixing the lives around him, usually by making them read a book or two or ten,  but when it comes to his own life he’s completely adrift. His journey, therefore, is almost part speaking tour, part Eat, Pray, Love. It’s fantastic, and I personally adored every second of it. Not to mention the book is basically a tour of France! Literally, my only gripes with this entire piece are that it starts a little slowly and that I still want more description of the countryside because it’s just so breathtaking! *sigh* Also, did I mention this book was originally released in German? The translation is flawless.

WARNING: This book will make you wish you were a Literary Apothecary. Which is a real job! Kind of. In the U.S. at least, they’re called Book Therapists. According to a super quick Google search I did just now they’re also called Bibliotherapists, and apparently, they’ve been around since Ancient Egypt/Greece. Who knew!

EXTRAS! Besides some delicious sounding recipes, the book also includes a mini book pharmacy, with “Perdu”‘s reading recommendations for your ailments. It’s. Perfect.

HHC Rating:  4.5 Stars